Category Archives: internet marketing

Protecting Your Online Reputation

reputation-repairWhile you can’t make everyone happy all of the time, you can make most of your customers/clients happy most of the time, one of you will make a mistake and ultimately someone will leave with bad feelings. There are a number of things you can do in this situation when you’ve been on the receiving end of a bad review. Here’s a tip: throwing a fit is the wrong answer.

1) Try talking to the complainant
If everything worked in a perfect world, then you would never have any bad reviews or unhappy customers ever, but sorry to say, it will happen eventually. In almost every case where an author of a bad review was asked why they chose to write it, it was after they tried contacting, or dealing with the company directly. The black mark only came to exist once those avenues were exhausted, so if you have someone on the phone with a complaint, or someone at your door with a grievance, it’s in your businesses best interest to deal with it as quickly and promptly as possible.

2) Sleep on it
If you’ve managed to miss the window of opportunity to deal with the customer before they air their dirty laundry on the internet, the best thing you can do for yourself, and for your business is to do nothing. At least at first, once you read or hear of a scathing review, it’s human nature to want to lash out to protect yourself and your interests. It’s a normal response and one that you don’t need to fret about having, but it’s the wrong response. In the online world of word of mouth, those who fire the first shot often win. Consumers usually side with the reviewer, who is often perceived as the “nothing-to-gain” victim facing a profit-focused business owner. While consumers expect local businesses to show a more personal side in how they speak with customers, there is little sympathy for defensive and unprofessional responses. So sleep on the review, send the author an email or private message if possible, and attempt to correct what ever the issue was. You may find that by taking the time to calmly address the complaint, that the review becomes modified to reflect your attempts at correction, or even disappears altogether.

3) Wait and see
If you’ve attempted to correct the issue with the services provided which made your customer/client so upset, and had no success, the next available action for you to resort to is to wait and see what the public does. Community review sites like Yelp, allow businesses to post their own version of events relating to a review, so it gives you a window of opportunity to share your side of the story. Because every business has had one of them: that obnoxious customer who wouldn’t be satisfied no matter what your recourse. As a respondent online to a bad review, you won’t win any friends or arguments by slinging insults back and forth at each other.

4) Encouragement
Once that bad review has been written, all avenues exhausted for reconciliation, and the bad press is still there, you do have an option to deal with the situation. You could bury it. You don’t physically bury it of course, but you make it a point to your customers that have positive experiences to post to the same review site, as well as others, to speak of their encounter with your business. It won’t happen initially, but over time the good will steadily drown out the bad, until it’s finally, entirely buried.

Online Reputation Concerns

With the vast majority of the world becoming more and more digital and available online, there is so much opportunity for business growth and expansion that it’s almost dizzying. There are new areas of customers, there is no open or close time as your site can be online and selling your products or services for you 24/7. Internet marketing and proper online branding can place you and your business in the position to experience massive growth in business and in connections, all the way from the local sector to the global one.

But there is also the other side of the coin, the flip side of the web and it can be a terrible place. Not referencing black hat SEO or any of the under handed tricks that can be used to rank highly or do shady business. I’m speaking about online reviews, and online reputation management – they say that bad news travels faster than good, and that goes ten fold online.

repAny business, especially the smaller local ones face high stakes when it comes to online reviews and their online reputation. According to a study conducted last year, approximately 72% of consumers surveyed said they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, while 52% said that positive online reviews make them more likely to use a local business. Yelp is one the more well known services which feature reviews of businesses, and businesses are beginning to encourage their visitors to use the service to rate them by offering prizes to verified posters. So where is the driving force behind that decision? A Harvard study conducted in 2011 found that a one-star increase among Yelp reviews of Seattle restaurants led to 5-9% growth in revenue.

Hitting a little closer to home, it was nearly a disastrous year downtown for some businesses as they were built and improved up around the newly returned Winnipeg Jets franchise to town. When the league was locked out and there was no hockey going on, those businesses began to falter. For any one of them to receive a bad review due to poor food, service, attitude, or what have you, it will be the death of their business. Negative reviews can happen, will happen, as not everyone is happy 100% of the time, but there are correct ways to respond, and incorrect ways. We’ll begin to cover that ground tomorrow, as it’s not a short topic.

Recognizing Your Client Type

You work long enough in the world of online marketing and you begin to recognize a handful of different client types. You can eventually group them into about 5 or so different client types, some more difficult to work with than others.

1) Believes they know your job because of a post client
This type of client is usually the type of client who may recognize that they need help online, but will continually question every step or change that you’ve made. While not entirely a negative client to have in your portfolio, it can lead to some difficulty if they enjoy tinkering with their website because they read something on a forum one time.

clients2)Needs to control every aspect client
This client, while more than happy to help increase their search positioning, is very tight fisted with the keys to the kingdom. They often are very slow with providing proper access needed to perform all of the tasks which can make your life as an SEO much easier on a day to day basis. When you need to make a change to their sites code, or heaven forbid, their content, you might suddenly find that you no longer have the required access with whish to work. Once you’ve touched base with the steps you need to take, and why, you normally receive the required access, but still extremely bothersome none the less.

3)Very helpful client
The dream client, fully recognizes that they need help online, has provided any and all access needed for you to complete your work and is more than happy to put you in touch with the people you need to reach. This is thankfully becoming more and more the norm in the industry, and while still a rare occurence in the wild of the internet, they do exist, do not give up hope!

4)Helpful, but uninformed client
These clients, while helpful in providing all of the access you require, are almost as troublesome as the client who needs to control every facet of your work, the troublesome part is they truly don’t understand they’re inhibiting your job by working on their website during or after you’ve made changes to their site. Or they have mistakenly uploaded an old backup of their website. Most of the time you just need to contact this client and let them know what they’ve done wrong, and why it’s a bad idea for them to make that type of mistake.

5)Disinterested, disillusioned client
This type of client has often been burned in the search arena, and while understanding of the fact that the world is going digital, really doesn’t believe that the work you do can impact their business. Often slow to pay for their services, or slow to provide you the contacts or access needed for you to truly excel at your work.

Google Has Been Judged

The decision was handed out yesterday from the FTC with Google versus everyone else basically, and while some people were happy with the decision, others obviously were not. In case you’ve missed any of the news surrounding the case, the very basic gist of what the complaint was that Google was controlling their monopoly of online search and marketing using anti-competitive practices.

There were a couple of good points made in the ruling, the main point being that a monopoly in a given market is not, by itself, illegal. In order to make a monopoly illegal, you need to gain, or maintain that hold using anti-competitive practices. This has been a long ongoing case in which the FTC poured over 9 million pages of documents after the charges were initially laid. And after all of that work, all of the discussions and meetings – Google has not violated any U.S. antitrust law.

googleisIt’s no real surprise that Google would be the target of such a case, they’re supremely dominant in the search industry. The Mountain View based giant accounted for 74.5% of all U.S. search advertising revenues in 2012. Microsoft on the other hand took in a significantly smaller share at 8% in the past year. The argument has long been that Google has been demoting or removing it’s rivals in their results pages in order to drive users to their own properties. And yet, after an investigation that nearly lasted for two years, and after what FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz described as “an incredibly thorough and careful investigation,” the FTC concluded unanimously that the evidence was lacking to charge Google.

While Google is going to make some changes in the way they do business, they’ve been cleared of any wrong doing where search is concerned, as it turns out they’re just better at it than the other options. From Ryan Radia, associate director of technology studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute:

America’s antitrust laws are designed not to punish companies for growing too big or too unpopular, but to ensure no company stifles competition itself… The thriving Internet sector — a bright spot in America’s otherwise lackluster economy — shows no signs of suffering from too little competition.

2013 Search Probabilities – Search and Semantic

There seems to be a fair amount of change coming on the search horizon, all of the previous updates over 2012 helped clean up the search results and with the growing acceptance of Google+ as a social network online marketing is set to make a transition. What exactly that transition will be, no one knows for sure in the search market, aside from the search engines that is. Just what Google and Microsoft have up their sleeves is anyones guess.

There have been the prediction blogs of what is to come in 2013, there have been the blogs reminiscing lost, or gained search rankings for 2012. But on the whole there seems to be two facets which are greatly worth considering for the coming search year. The first would be the social arena, if you don’t have a presence already it’s not too late to get in, but it will be a good bit of work, and the second is in the semantic side of search.

facebooksnippet

Social is easily described, having a Facebook, Google+ or Twitter page, as well as a blog all helps to draw your customers to your website. You can use the social side of the web in order to introduce sales, specials, or even the addition of a new product or service that you never previously offered in your business. The immediate benefit to using the social web is viewership, anyone and everyone who has subscribed to your feed has your new information the second you press that share button, instant traction. The barrier for entry as well, is extremely low, it’s your time. The more time you are able to put into your social pages and sites, the more potential traffic and news you can generate as a result. Google and Microsoft (Bing) haven’t fully taken on social signals as a heavy ranking factor, although they’re slowly getting there. Just how they will decide to leverage the social signals with other SEO efforts is yet to be seen however. 2013 could be another year of swings up and down the search results.

The other topic which bears some consideration is in the semantic side of search. Using proper markup in your webpages allows the search engines to easily and rapidly generate rich snippets for your website, increasing organic visibility and as a likely result generating more traffic to your site. One of the most basic forms of a rich snippet for example are the breadcrumbs which can be generated by search engine bots visiting your website. Take the search result for Facebook as an example, with only 10 results displayed on a search page, when the top 20% of the page is dominated with internal pages to your search query it definitely helps influence your clicks.

SEO Predictions for 2013

As always at this time of year we give our predictions for SEO for the following year, this year we have gathered some help from our friends & other search experts in the field who have given there twist on things to come.

In 2013, the SEO Role must go above and beyond. For example, a basic SEO strategy would obviously include some amount of reporting (for keyword rankings and traffic numbers at the least); however, I find myself analyzing the data to help my client better understand their demographic. Where are visitors accessing the site from, when do they access the site, and what are they specifically looking for when they are on the site?
All of these questions—and more—are in hopes of helping them identify new ways to effectively reach their customer base and ultimately make them more successful. It is SEO’s job to provide meaningful help.

Rand says links and rankings are just means to an end, not the end itself.

What clients really want is not better rankings and more links; they want to make more money.

The SEOs who understood and understand where Google is going and what their clients really want are the ones who are still in business and doing well. For them, the job of a SEO is content relevancy (public relations), user experience, web design, conversions, traffic segmentation, call tracking, research, writing, and anything else that sells products and services and leads to more profits for the client not just short-term, but long-term as well.

Most of all, the job of an SEO is to see the future. Those who can’t will go out of business and take their clients with them.

In conclusion, each of these experts—coming from multiple perspectives–agree that SEO will become a much broader and more complex function in 2013. Yet it will also become more vital than ever before, as it converges with every variety of online presence and marketing.

 

SEO 2013 predictions
SEO 2013 predictions

 

 

 

 

Small Business – Big Visibility

So not such big of a news announcement as it’s all over the social and even some news channels, but in case you missed it the prophecy was wrong. The interpretations of the Mayan long calender proved false, as most people with sense knew it would, and the world did not end.

But while the physical world didn’t end overnight, Google was busy pushing out yet another update to the Panda algorithm, just in time for Christmas. This is the 23rd update since Panda first came into the search scene on February 24, 2011. The latest update affected nearly double the amount of queries, but if you consider that accounts for only 1.3% of results it’s a rather small sampling. There was also the non-update from last week, where the web acted like there was an update running, but Google said there was no such event. Perhaps it was a precursor to what we’ve seen over the last day or so with the new algorithm shift.

adwordsWith all of the algorithm updates it can leave some of those who are uninitiated in search caught floundering without knowing that they’ve done anything really wrong. It happens fairly often that we have a very small business contact us for search engine optimization of their site, when all they really can afford, is to take the time to use the AdWords platform effectively. Adwords is the paid version of search results, often referred to as pay per click or search engine marketing, as you’re directly paying for position on the search page. The other large difference between PPC and SEO is the way the ads are displayed, AdWords results are listed as ‘Sponsored Listings’ and have a place on the far right of the page. The major limiting factor that directly contributes to your success in the SEM market, is your operating budget. There is no such thing as an unlimited budget, as every time a viewer clicks on one of your ads it will cost your business money.

There are some very simple rules you can thankfully assign to your ads though, which can help save you some much needed budget. You can schedule specific time frames where your ads are used in the bid system for example. If you sell sleeping pills for example, you could have your ads run only from 6pm until 6am daily, trying to appeal to your target demographic. It’s a very rough idea, but clearly shows the intent. One of the other very powerful tools you can use to shape your traffic and your views, is to use the negative search feature to block your ads from displaying on searches which don’t fit your business. A basic example would have to be if your business sells house slippers, you don’t need your ads to be showing for people who need or want outdoor foot wear. Two very simple, basic tools that already exist within the platform that allow small businesses to handle their advertising for themselves. With a little diligence, and careful crafting you can ensure your visibility with the biggest companies out there.

A Job Done Right

A topic that we have touched upon a number of times on the blog here is the discussion of skill sets. There is no all in one tool box when it comes to being a successful company online, you need to make sure to put the right tools in place. You should have your content and all of its creation, that is usually down to the business owner or visionary offering the services. You then need sales people, or if you are not into sales, a work force devoted to spreading your information, both on and offline. When you do have a website, you need to have a web team in place to manage your site, and finally online marketing. You need to have a dedicated team or individual in place who can manage your online branding efforts.

right-toolBeing that we are an online focused company, we tend to see some prime examples of either one of two extremes. Either we have a client who decided that they could handle everything in house, and quickly learned that online management is a full time job in itself. The other side of the coin we find are others in our space, web designers or developers who try and sell themselves off as SEOs as well. When we have a new client who has come to us because they have learned they can’t manage the workload on their own, it is a great day. Primarily for them, for as long as they haven’t broken any of the rules, we can assist with their positioning easily.

An unfortunate thorn in our side however, are the individuals out there who bill themselves as a one stop shop for all things online. Cumulatively at Fresh, we have somewhere north of 40 years of experience in the online market, ranging from development, design, and optimization. We have always billed ourselves as online branding and internet marketing experts, but we can help you out if you need a new website designed and developed as well. And when it comes down to it, everyone within Fresh does the job they’re best at. A designer to design the sites, a developer to make them light and quick. One person taking care of the on site and on page work and the boss taking care of the finished product. If he finds a change that needs to be made, whether it’s in design, development or with the on site optimization, it gets sent back to be addressed before it goes live.

The idiom “horses for courses” is a phrase I came to know well working here at Fresh, basically meaning is what suits one person may not suit another. But it is that stringent starting point that has allowed us to provide our clients with the results they deserve and demand, both with their website and their online marketing efforts. 2012 will very soon be behind us, we will be ready come 2013 for you and your business, to help you succeed.

The Non-Existant Update

There is a saying that goes something like “If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it must be a duck”. It seems however, that contrary to the aforementioned saying, that even though everything pointed to an algorithm shift late last week, there wasn’t one. All of the signs were there, and the search results pages reacted in such a way that it seemed clear there was one.

Some of the signs that you can look for on the surface are fairly obvious, but some of the shifts need a long term history to double check information against. One of the first things you see as a user, when your results page comes up and you find you don’t recognize any of the returned values, that would be your first clue that there is activity within the algorithm. These shifts don’t often drastically affect the long term results, but an example of a large shift would be when Panda, Penguin, and the EMD (Exact Match Domain) were implemented.

no-pandaGetting a little more in depth with examining the results page, a fairly common result of the algorithm making any kind of a shift is having a page built of mainly internal pages. To explain, instead of seeing a results page with addresses of www.abc.ca, you see internal pages, www.abc.ca/our-story.html. It is a change that is less noticeable than having a page of results that you don’t recognize, but it is this change that those who work in the realm of search optimization will look for first.

A much more in depth analysis can take place with the SERPs if you have the historical data for a website you manage. This information is one of the larger metrics that we will use as SEOs to determine if there has been a sudden change. Using the historical data we’ve compiled monitoring your website while helping you improve your online rankings will enable us to give a clearer answer to any questions you may have if you’ve suddenly found you’re no longer on the front page.

 

New Local Search Results Coming

There is a new player in the mobile search world, one hoping to possibly take on the incredible domination of Google on the mobile front. Facebook has retooled one of their previous features to function as a local search technology, with a catch or two. The function which has been updated, “Previously Nearby” showed you where your friends had checked-in. With the recent update to the feather, it now shows where your friends have checked-in but more importantly, it will also show you local businesses, it has become a local search tool.

You can use the feature to search or browse the listings based on ratings, friend check-ins, as well as the amount of Likes and recommendations. The first filter your search has to pass through is your friend network, but if your friends haven’t visited any of the local businesses the the larger Facebook network will act as the first line of ordering. The idea behind the change is to likely have more people use the check-in feature, as you won’t be able to rate a business if you do not. The basic service idea would be to show you where your friends have been, and how positive, or negative, their experience was.facebook-mobile

As a business owner, there are a few hurdles you need to overcome in order to grow, or maintain your position. First and foremost, you would need a Facebook Page to even be inducted into their search service, no Page, no listing. Some of the social media branding advice from Facebook includes:

  • Update your Page to include all of your basic information, including your address, store hours, phone number, and details about your business in the About section
  • Update your category to make sure you appear when people are looking for your specific type of business
  • Encourage your consumers to like, check into, rate, and recommend your place

At present the feature isn’t prominently on display on mobile devices, it is buried in one of the menus effectively rendering it invisible, but that is only the temporary setting. Facebook doesn’t have the massive database of customer reviews that Yelp has, or even that Google has in their database, but with the sheer amount of mobile users that Facebook has on a monthly bases (600 million active) it won’t take long for it to grow. The only one other catch that exists within the new Nearby app, is the use is currently only on the mobile platform. It is a sensible move, as users have to have a mobile connected device to use the check-in feature as it is, but it will likely make it’s desktop debut should everything go well on the mobile front. We may be seeing the first stages of Facebook making a play into the search world with this iteration of local reviews and results pages.